These are the healthy sleep habits that kids and teenagers should adopt for overall health and development. It can be hard to help restless kids or teenagers get the sleep they need. But most parents know how important adequate sleep is for kids to grow, perform and feel their best. From information retention at school to performance on the soccer field or in the orchestra, sleep affects nearly every aspect of our lives.
So how can parents help their kids and teenagers get the sleep their bodies and minds require? One of the best ways to make adequate deep sleep a routine is to build and stick to healthy sleep habits.
Let’s cover some of the best habits that kids and teenagers can adopt to maximize sleep and feel their best.
How Much Sleep Do Kids and Teenagers Need?
First of all, how many hours of shut-eye do little (and big) ones need every night? It depends on age.
Here are the recommendations for newborns through teenagers from Sleep Foundation1:
- Newborns need 14 to 17 hours of sleep per night
- Infants (4-11 months old) need 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years old) need 11-14 hours
- Preschool kids (3-5 years old) need 10-13 hours
- 6-13-year olds need 9-11 hours
The CDC recommends that teenagers over 13 years old need 8-10 hours of sleep per night.2
Healthy Sleep Habits for Kids and Teens
Here are some ways to build healthy habits around bedtime for kids and teenagers.
1. Shut down the screens
Avoid screen time within two hours of bedtime. The bright lights and stimulation from TVs, tablets, phones and computers can make falling asleep harder. Likewise, turn down lights in the house and bedroom a few hours before bedtime.
Dim lighting helps signal to your brain and body that it’s time to wind down and sleep is coming. And when you’re finally tucking little ones in, make sure the room is nice and dark, as well as quiet. Ambient light and sound can prevent drifting off.
2. Stick to a schedule
Create a regular sleeping and waking schedule. The more accustomed your body is to bedtime and wake times, the easier it will be to fall asleep. This means sticking to the schedule, even on the weekends, if possible.
3. Set a good example
Kids take the lead from their parents, including when it comes to sleep. So set a positive example for little ones by following your own rules and sticking to a healthy bedtime and wake-up time.
4. Eat for proper sleep
Nutrition and the choices you make around food affect how you feel, how your body performs and how you sleep. Certain foods can actually help kids, teenagers and adults fall asleep, while others can have a damaging effect on your ability to nod off.
In addition to the obvious caffeine, you also want to avoid simple carbohydrates and high-sugar foods close to bedtime. Instead, opt for satiating foods that contain fiber and protein.
Sleep-promoting foods to include at dinner include:
- Beans and legumes, including hummus
- Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and farro
- Tofu and other lean proteins, including chicken and pork
If you want to offer something sweet after dinner, a high-fiber choice like fresh berries is a good choice.
Even more importantly than what your child or teenager eats is that they eat. An empty stomach can make getting to sleep difficult. That being said, according to the American Sleep Association, it’s very important not to create a food-sleep association in which babies rely on food (such as a warm bottle) to fall asleep.3
If your teenager, baby or school-age child is having trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, use these strategies to develop healthy habits around bedtime.
And to better support children’s physical and mental development, supplement healthy sleep habits with the nutrients they need to build strong bodies and minds.
1 How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? Sleep Foundation. (2020, September 24). https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 10). Sleep in Middle and High School Students. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/features/students-sleep.htm#:~:text=The%20American%20Academy%20of%20Sleep,10%20hours%20per%2024%20hours.
3 Kempton, R. (n.d.). Tips to Help Baby Sleep Through the Night. American Sleep Association. https://www.sleepassociation.org/children-and-sleep/8-tips-help-baby-sleep-night/.